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SAN BENITO — Since last summer, the San Benito High School principal’s position has turned over three times, leading members of the school district’s new board of trustees to call for stability.
Now, school board members are counting on veteran administrator Manuela Lopez to help return solidity to the high school’s top administrative office.
As the new school year opens, Lopez is taking over as the school’s principal about a week after Superintendent Theresa Servellon announced her appointment.
“Mrs. Manuela ‘Mamie’ Lopez has dedicated 34 years to the students of San Benito CISD,” Servellon stated. “Her integrity, fortitude and commitment to education will have a positive impact on the students and staff at San Benito High School.”
During her 34 years in education, Lopez served as a teacher before taking on administrative positions as an elementary school and middle school principal.
“As a former teacher and now principal, I realize the direction education needs to take to meet the growing needs of our ever-changing society,” she stated. “Education is so important. My mother always told my brother and I, ‘They can take everything away from you, but they can’t take your education.’”
Climbing career ladder
A 1985 San Benito High School graduate, Lopez served as a teacher and assistant principal before taking over as principal at Fred Booth and Ed Downs elementary schools.
“Mrs. Lopez has experience in setting direction, developing teachers and developing organizations within school systems through coaching and mentoring,” Isabel Gonzalez, the district’s spokeswoman, stated. “While at the elementary level, she led teachers and students in maintaining and surpassing the successes at Ed Downs Elementary. During her tenure, the school excelled and received a Texas Education Agency rating of an ‘A’ and was awarded all six possible academic distinctions. She was instrumental in founding and establishing Ed Downs Elementary as the district’s first fine arts academy.”
After serving as principal at Riverside Middle School, Lopez, upon Servellon’s appointment, took over as principal at Veterans Memorial Academy last summer.
At Veterans Memorial Academy, she helped establish San Benito Collegiate Academy, Gonzalez stated.
“Mrs. Lopez has shown success working collaboratively in different settings through her vision and guidance from the district and she possesses the integrity, determination and commitment needed to make a positive impact on students and teachers at San Benito High School,” she stated.
Lopez holds a bachelor of arts degree and a masters degree in education from the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley.
Instability rocks high school
For about a year, instability has rocked the high school, leading some board members to question Servellon’s appointments.
Last month, board members voted 4-2 to reject Servellon’s recommendation of Michael Solis, principal at La Villa’s Early College High School.
“Because of the history, I thought we needed someone with more experience and a very strong track record,” board President Orlando Lopez said in an interview, referring to the board’s rejection of Solis’ recommendation.
“The high school, being our flagship school, unfortunately has gone through some major changes in the past year and a half,” he said. “We’ve gone through three leaders. It’s very concerning. We need to turn it around. We need stable leadership. Our kids deserve it.”
Lopez replacing Ysasi
At San Benito High School, Manuela Lopez is replacing Marcus Ysasi, who resigned in July to move to the Dallas area after about six months on the job.
In late January, the past school board unanimously appointed Ysasi to serve as the high school’s top administrator based on Servellon’s recommendation.
Ysasi, a Raymondville native who had served as a Riverside Middle School principal, had previously served as principal of Chapel Hill High School, with an enrollment of about 330 students.
Ysasi’s resignation came weeks after his return following a suspension in May, when officials placed him on paid administrative leave.
At the time, Gonzalez declined to disclose the reason behind the suspension, stating officials did not comment on “personnel matters.”
Second principal to resign
Ysasi’s resignation marked the second time the high school’s principal resigned this year.
In December 2022, Servellon suspended Principal Gilbert Galvan, who resigned in January following a 45-year career as an educator.
In June 2022, Servellon assigned Galvan, who had served as Veterans Memorial Academy’s principal since 2013, to the high school’s principal post, replacing Rudy Ramirez, who had served in that position since 2020.
Officials did not disclose the reason behind Galvan’s widely speculated suspension.